BOSTON, MA – A small group of parents gathered outside the State House Wednesday, urging education officials to issue a metric-based approach to guide the reopening of local school systems for in-person learning.
The rally, organized by Bring Kids Back MA, drew around 20 people, both parents and children, who held signs reading “Casinos Open Schools Closed??” and “Don’t Gamble With Our Education.”
Marblehead resident Beth Whitten stood among them. The mother of two boys, ages 7 and 9, said remote learning adds an additional burden on parents.
In the last fourteen days, Marblehead recorded a total of nine COVID-19 cases, a 1.4 average percent positivity, and three average daily cases per 100,000 residents, according to the Department of Public Health data.
The town falls into the “green” category on the new color-coded system Gov. Charlie Baker unveiled at a Tuesday press conference. Baker has said he “can’t imagine a good reason” for the lower-risk municipalities coded green to not bring students back into classrooms either full-time or on some sort of hybrid model that also involves remote learning.
“If the town is green, let’s go,” Whitten said. “Let’s get them in. [Baker] needs to mandate these towns appropriately and safely to get the kids in school.”
The American Federation of Teachers Massachusetts has called for a remote start to school in the fall, citing rising levels of COVID-19 in the state, delays in receiving test results, and limited ability to practice social distancing in school buildings.
“It’s become clear in the last few weeks that an in-person return to schools would unacceptably put the health and safety of our students, their families, and educators at risk,” AFT Massachusetts President Beth Kontos said in an Aug. 3 statement. “Parents, grandparents, and educators — may be even students — would die.”
Separately, the Massachusetts Teachers Association asked districts and the state to demonstrate that health and safety conditions and public health benchmarks are met before reopening school buildings.
“Until the point when districts and the state can meet these criteria, we will refuse to return to unsafe school buildings and we will use the 10 additional days at the start of the 2020-2021 school year before instruction of students begins to redesign learning,” the MTA wrote in a statement.
The Baker administration left it up to individual districts to come up with their fall school reopening plans, giving them until Friday to submit those plans to the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Administration officials
DESE formalized new guidelines for which learning models — in-person, online, or hybrid — school districts should use based on the administration’s new system. In the spring, school districts transitioned to online teaching in response to growing numbers of COVID-19 cases.
Marblehead resident Tammi Baer said her high school-aged daughter learned nothing from the online class she took two to three times a week and the several projects she worked on.
“She’s a straight-A student, and it was a joke. It was basically review, and I mean, there was nothing new. It was a waste of her time,” Baer said. “She did it every day but it was still, there was nothing that she gained from that. And now she’s going into her junior year where this is critical for her. She’s going to college. She wants to learn, she loves school.”
Kids just want to play video games when they are at home, parent Matt Ardolino said, and it’s hard for children to learn at home.
“We really need these kids to get back into school. You can do it in a social distance way,” Ardolino said while standing next to his son Jackson.